Scout Tufankjian for Obama for America
One of the trends in United Methodism these days is to talk extensively about "the mission field."
It's a buzz word. It's a concept.
The question is asked: "In every place where we do ministry, what does the mission field look like?"
It's a very very good question, and I'm glad we're asking it. Demographics, we are learning, matter to church growth. In fact, seen from one perspective, demographics are destiny when it comes to church growth.
So it is that many of us United Methodist pastors/congregations are now asked:
"Who are the people your church is trying to reach?"
"Who are the people who would miss you if you were not around?"
"What demographic trends are changing in your neighborhoods?"
We've taken to analyzing demographic data, as we can get our hands on it, to see just how well (or not well) we are "working our mission field."
All this is good. But it is not the only question.
Because, while we absolutely should be analyzing the demographic data on the micro-level of neighborhoods, we also need to analyze it on the macro-level of our nation too.
Tuesday night, we got deeply important new data. We got the results of this year's presidential election. We got new data that can help us answer the macro-question:
What Does the "Mission Field" of the United States look like?
If the United Methodist Church is going to survive in the future, it's deeply important that we ask and answer this question, and that we seek the best data to help us with this.
This will, of necessity and whether we like it or not, involve asking political questions:
What are the politics of the American people?
What do they care about?
What issues are becoming more important?
What issues are becoming less important?
So, having set this out for us, let me jump right to the punchline and work my way back to the end....
The United States is a "center/left" nation.
But the United Methodist Church is, increasingly, a "center/right" denomination.
That should be of deep concern to all of us. We are, increasingly, out-of-step, with where the nation is, and with where the nation is going. We are "big ship" that takes a long time to turn, especially on social issues. We are behind. We should expect to fall farther behind in these next four years. Not because I am cynical about us, but because the demographic data tells us this.
How do I come to this conclusion?
I do it by first by analyzing the highest, top-level demographic data available to us: the Presidential Popular Vote.(1)